One Minute With…
Hi Alex, thanks for taking the time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
Thanks for having me. It’s crazy to be included in such an awesome list of designers and artists that have been a huge inspiration for me. I was born in Mexico, and raised in the Midwest. Most of my youth was spent in Chicago. There, I discovered my need be involved in art and design in any way I could. About eight years ago I journeyed to Madison, Wisconsin, where I live and work independently today. I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by a growing community of super talented designers in the region, and to be able to connect with them regularly. Anyone who has met me knows how awkward I am right off the bat. That being said, talking about my work has never come easy for me. The majority of it tends to be heavy with illustrations, but I also find myself wanting do more typography-related gigs lately. When I think of things that inspire and influence my work, I think of Norwegian folk art, mid-century design, early 80’s film posters as well as Victorian type.
How did you get into design? Was there a defining point in your career, and if so, how did it shape you as a designer?
It’s a little weird, but I kind of fell into design. I was never certain which path to take for my career but I was always attracted by the romantic sounding life of a fine artist. At some point I began to fall in love with letterpress and screen printed posters, and I knew I wanted to know more. Before I knew it, I was in school and it just clicked — it seemed like such an obvious move. I often wonder why I didn’t pursue design earlier in my life. After school, I interned at a couple places. One of the internships was at Planet Propaganda – I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to learn and grow. I got to work with awesome art directors, and designers like Evan Stremke (to whom I owe an incalculable number of beers). My time at Planet turned out to be eye-opening and helped me to see how far I needed to go to get to the level I want to be at. As well as helping me realize how much more I need to push myself.
If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?
That’s a hard question to answer, since my career seems very young in my eyes. I wish I had pursued design earlier in my life. I can’t ever seem to shake the feeling that there’s not enough time to do all the things I would like to do throughout my career.
You run a small store, where you sell a few sweet prints of your work. Has having a passive income been beneficial to you? Do you think it’s something all designers should be doing?
Oh definitely! There’s so many designers out there whose work I’d love to get my hands on, and I’m completely bummed when I see there’s no place to purchase any printed pieces. It’s kept me motivated to do personal projects and not think solely of client work. It’s also generated commissioned work for me, and connected me with other opportunities. Plus, it’s humbling that someone is taking a something I’ve created and making it a part of his or her home. It blows my mind every time I think someone’s hanging something I’ve created on their walls. (Tear drop.)
On your site, you say that you want to be known as somebody who brings “fanatical energy” to your work. How do you go about doing this? Are there projects that you can’t quite get fanatically energetic about, and if so, how do you overcome that?
Yikes! I may have put my foot in my mouth there. Fanatical might be a strong word, but I do try my best to obsess over details and let clients know I’m in it to win it! As for how I go about it – I go about it probably as most designers do. I love when a client can see I’m just as hyped for their success as they are. No matter how big or small the budget is, I’m gonna try to give you more than you asked for. I know that when I’m spending late nights working off the clock or beyond the budget, I’m putting in the extra effort to focus on quality of the final product.
We all get “that client” that doesn’t really want your creative input but simply wants a designer to just crank out something from point A to point B, leaving no room for growth or new directions. That bums me out… Overcoming this is still something I struggle with. When you realize no amount of revisions are gonna satisfy the client, and you’re also not satisfied with the direction they want you to take, that’s when you need to tap the brakes a little and remind them to trust you. After all, they hired you for a reason.
Where do you see yourself, in, say, 5 or 10 years? Do you still hope to be working at a designer and illustrator at this scale, or do you hope to have moved on to something bigger (or perhaps smaller)?
Hmm… the idea of being part of a small team is something that appeals to me. As much as I enjoy working independently and the creative ownership that goes with it, collaborating and gaining strength as a group is something I know I’d enjoy. Perhaps through my own agency or joining someone else’s? I would say that this is where I could see myself in 5 years. Or perhaps moving somewhere more secluded and creating a self-sustaining studio/home and live off the land. Granola style!
If, in some Freaky Friday-like situation, you could live the life of another designer, illustrator or creative, for a day, who would it be, and why?
There’s few that I’d Freaky Friday with, but I think it would kick my ass if I attempted to spend an hour in any of their shoes. There are so many designers currently doing fantastic things that it’s hard to choose. Folks like Scott Hill, Lydia Nichols and Scotty Reifsnyder, to name a few. I’d have to look to Alexander Girard as one of my all time favorites though. His career is overwhelming huge and his range of talent is something that I can only hope to gain in my career throughout my life. To work in an era where you relied on using your hands rather than computers and still achieved the quality craftsmanship would be amazing.
How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
My version of success is working hard at my craft and never having it get old. I don’t want to lose my drive, but rather to continuously grow and expand the types of projects I get to work on. I suppose it doesn’t hurt to make a few shekels while you’re at it too.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Never stop pushing. Never stop working, especially early on when paid work might be scarce. Self-initiated projects keep you sharp and let people know you’re always looking to crank out work and not just waiting for client work.